Investigation Finds Chief Constable Mike Veale Gave “Inaccurate Account” of How He Broke Phone

(Updated and amended a couple of times)

From the Independent Office for Police Conduct (and widely reported elsewhere):

An Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation has found that Cleveland Chief Constable Mike Veale has a case to answer for alleged misconduct for providing and maintaining an inaccurate account of how damage to his work mobile phone was caused while heading up Wiltshire Police.

We found that Mr Veale had a case to answer in respect of his explanation to colleagues that the phone had been dropped in a golf club car park and inadvertently run over by a vehicle. Mr Veale subsequently explained to our investigators that the damage was in fact caused when he swung a club at his golf bag in frustration after playing a poor shot.

We began an investigation in January this year after anonymous allegations were received that Chief Constable Veale deliberately damaged his mobile phone to hide contact with various parties over Wiltshire Police’s investigation into Sir Edward Heath (Operation Conifer).

It was previously reported in January that Veale, who has now moved on from Wiltshire to Cleveland, was under investigation for breaking a phone. He has now been put on an “ongoing programme of professional development”, during which it will be explained to the chief constable that police officers ought not to tell lies.

The IPOC press release also links to the full report, which has further details:

On 23 November 2017, the IOPC received an anonymous typed letter dated 25 October 2017. This letter alleged that Chief Constable Veale and a Conservative MP had collaborated in leaking information about Operation Conifer, an investigation into alleged child abuse by Sir Edward Heath, in an attempt to boost public opinion of Chief Constable Veale.

The letter alleged that Chief Constable Veale had spoken directly to one journalist on a number of occasions, and had told the MP that “he was going to cover his tracks by destroying his phone so records of contact between him and [name redacted] could not be traced.”

The journalist mentioned here was very probably Simon Walters, the Mail on Sunday’s political editor; during Operation Conifer, Walters ran a number of articles on the subject, the most sensational being “Police Chief: Heath Was a Paedophile“, which famously introduced the suggestion – attributed to “a source” – that Veale believed the claims against Heath were “120% genuine”. Veale always denied having expressed an opinion about Heath’s guilt or leaking, but when the police investigation ended in fiasco without having discovered anything of substance he went to Walters to give his first interview, despite his former complaints that he had been misrepresented. (1)

The IPOC report includes the detail that Assistant Chief Constable Paul Mills recalled that “on the morning of 23 September 2017, the force media team made him aware that there had been a significant leak of information from the Operation Conifer report”; Mills attempted to contact Veale about it, but was unable to do so until Veale emailed him the next day with his false account of how his phone had been run over by a car. We are also told by the IPOC that Veale had told investigators “that during the game [of golf] he received several calls about an article that was due to be published in the Sunday Times the following day, which was highly personal and questioned his integrity and the integrity of Operation Conifer”. I wrote about this Sunday Times article at the time; it drew attention to links between Veale and a conspiracy theorist named Robert Green, but it was derived from an exchange that Green had published on his own website rather than a “leak”.

Oddly, IPOC makes no mention of another article that was published on the same day: “Police: If Ted Heath Was Alive Today We’d Quiz him under Caution on Child Abuse Claims” (discussed here), once again from Simon Walters at the Mail on Sunday. The article cited “Whitehall sources”, and it looks much more like it was based on a “significant leak from the Operation Conifer report” than the Sunday Times article. Yet this article is not mentioned anywhere in the IPOC report.

The whole thing is a bit of a mystery. Whoever sent the letter knew that Veale had broken his phone, but if the sender’s purpose was malicious (as Veale maintains) it seems remarkably good luck for this person that it turned out that Veale had told a lie to explain the damage – which just happened to have occurred the day before leaks from within Operation Conifer provided the basis for new story in the Mail on Sunday (whereas the IPOC report instead focuses on the Sunday Times article).

On the other hand, though, if the damage was inflicted “accidentally on purpose” by hitting his golf bag in front of witnesses, why then afterwards resort to a different story to explain what had happened? And there is corroboration that Veale sought out data recovery, which is not consistent with wanting to “cover tracks” – although there is slippage in the IPOC report between one witness saying “he asked her to try to arrange the recovery of all of the data stored on the phone”, and an IT consultant who says Veale “asked him to recover some information that was stored on the device”.

The MP, meanwhile, is almost certainly Andrew Bridgen, who was bizarrely described by Veale as a “stakeholder” in the investigation. Bridgen was given advance access to the Operation Conifer report, which he commended to be media before the public were allowed to see it for themselves, and his involvement perhaps explains why a crime investigation was being channelled to the Mail on Sunday via a political hack (as suggested by Private Eye magazine last year – issue 1454, p. 10). Characteristically, Bridgen has now provided a media quote for the Daily Mail, stating:

‘This investigation, based on spurious and vexatious allegations carried out at huge cost to the taxpayer, has been nothing more than an attempt to smear the reputation of an honest policeman.’

However, Bridgen did not make any reference to the alleged conversation mentioned in the anonymous letter that led to the IPOC investigation. Bridgen’s statement here is hard to take given the huge sums that were wasted in Veale’s crusade to find evidence that Heath – who died in 2005 – was a child-sex abuser.

On the same day as Veale’s interview with Walters at the end of Operation Conifer, Veale also chose to be interviewed by Mark Watts, formerly of Exaro News. This was an odd decision, given how Watts had heavily promoted the discredited “Operation Midland” complainant. Watts’s explanation for the investigation into the broken phone is that this is “the establishment” taking “revenge” for Operation Conifer, although he covers both bases by referring to the story of Veale talking to the MP: “If true, who could have been listening in to a chief constable’s private comms?”

Meanwhile, self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger has said on social media that he has today spoken with Veale, and that he (Wedger) believes that the investigation indicates “the vile paedophilic cover ups at the heart of the British establishment.” Wedger, who has previously been promoted by the Daily Express, maintains some mainstream links while being fully immersed in an “alternative media” conspiracy milieu that has seen him discussing Satanic Ritual Abuse with Bill Maloney and speaking at the International Tribunal for Natural Justice.

Footnote

1. The Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, has issued a statement expressing his support for Veale. It includes a detail about the second aspect of the letter:

A second part of the referral, concerning allegations Mr Veale had disclosed confidential information relating to ‘Operation Conifer’, was returned to the Wiltshire PCC in January to deal with in any manner he deemed appropriate, which was to take no further action.

Despite a recent report that chief constables have disparaged PCCs as “not that bright” and “absolutely bleeding hopeless”, the impression one gets is that they are usually compliant and do not in fact hold chief constables to account.

A Note on Former MP Patrick Mercer and Russia

With the announcement of two suspects in the Salisbury Novichok incident, I am reminded of commentary article about the subject from March in the Yorkshire Post, by the disgraced (1) former MP Patrick Mercer:

Russia was condemned almost immediately, though, condemned by a fragile government and a Prime Minister who was under pressure from a shrieking media to talk tough and damn the niceties.

…But what has Mr Putin to gain from such behaviour?… Mr Skripal… was exchanged – he didn’t run – and has lived in silence ever since. Why would Mr Putin bring international condemnation on himself just before a vital election?

…my Russian friends have 
other theories… whilst an attack on the traitor Segei might be acceptable, Yulia is off limits. Some may see her as unfortunate collateral damage, but Mr Putin’s electoral chances would suffer the same if accusations stuck.

…They also point out that the former, main Soviet Novichok facility was in Uzbekistan which is now under the insecure control of that country and that the formula for these weapons is publicly available. It could be made in advanced laboratories such as those in the US, UK Israel or… Ukraine. Ah, Ukraine – aren’t they in the middle of a dirty, bitter war with Russia at the moment and wouldn’t Mr Putin’s embarrassment at the polls be a great advantage to them?

This analysis is weak, and it is troubling to read coming from the pen of a former Chairman of the House of Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee. Of course there is nothing wrong in itself with raising alternative theories about the poisoning, but this defence of Russia fails due to a number of glaring difficulties:

1. The notion that Putin’s re-election was dependent on “electoral chances” is naive to the extreme.

2. Skripal may be “living in silence” in so far as he had not made any public statements, but he may have been in a position to provide further assistance to British intelligence agencies, and killing him would have the obvious gain of deterring other potential double-agents.

3. Even if it is true that ordinary Russians would have sympathised with Yulia (which is speculative) (2), if the threat to life and injury she suffered was unexpected “collateral damage” then it obviously would not have been a factor that would have been taken into consideration in advance of the decision to act.

4. Russia may well have been confident that the allegation would not in fact “stick” and that they would get away with it. This is usually the case when someone decides in cold blood to commit a crime.

5. For Ukraine, undertaking such a “false flag” terrorist action would be a massive gamble, disproportionate to the vague prize of “embarrassing” Putin.

These days, Mercer writes on military history, and in February 2017 he took part in a delegation of British academics to Crimea, with a view to “attracting foreign and Russian tourists” to archaeological sites relating to the Crimean War, in words attributed to Mercer by RIA-Novosti. The delegation was denounced by the Ukrainian Embassy in London as “an illegal visit… to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea occupied by the Russian Federation”, and another Ukrainian website, Human Rights in Ukraine, added that

Mercer is effectively recognizing the Ukrainian peninsula invaded by Russia and illegally annexed in 2014 as ‘Russian’, and promising to try to get others to also ignore international sanctions by doing the same.

Neither source appears to have been aware of Mercer’s former high-profile political career, and British media appears to have overlooked the oddness of a former Shadow Minister for Homeland Security getting mixed up in such a controversy.

Notes

(1) Mercer resigned following a BBC Panorama sting in 2013, in which he agreed to lobby in Parliament on behalf of Fiji’s sugar industry in return for money and – as a bonus scoop – he expressed the view that an Israeli soldier he had once met looked like “a bloody Jew”.

I have sometimes speculated about why he was targeted for this sting, and three possibilities come to mind: (a) contemptuous comments he had made about the Prime Minister, David Cameron; (b) he was a buffoonish liability due to a constant stream of sensationalising and false claims about terror threats that he would feed to tabloid newspapers, based on discreditable associates who were feeding him false information; (c) anger within the security services at his attempt to smear an ex-lover as mentally ill, given that the woman involved was at the time an assistant to the Shadow Security Minister, Baroness [Pauline] Neville-Jones.

(Incidentally, the “discreditable associates” included a British man who sometimes trolled online as “James Rosposol”, later amended to “James Osposol”. “Rosposol” is the first element in the email addresses of Russian embassies)

2. Mercer may be projecting here, due to his own fondness for Slavic females – at one time he was recorded after a few drinks discoursing on the subject of Ukrainian women: “Ooooh ahhh. They are extraordinary. They ARE extraordinary”.

Some Notes on a “Justice” Campaign

From RT, back in May:

The father of a 17-year-old teenager, who was killed by a drunk driver, is suing the police accusing them of cover up of what he said was either a terrorist or deliberate attack.

Ian Rice, whose son was killed along with another two teenage boys after the man crashed into them, slammed the police for failing to bring justice to the victims and their families.

…Rice claims [Jaynesh] Chudasama intended to hit the teenagers and that police were trying to “suppress” the case and “keep it out of the public eye” due to the driver’s background as a Muslim of Pakistani origin.

…”We are the victims, we are not the criminals,” Ian said while attending the Day of Freedom protest in London on Sunday. The protest was organized by a spectrum of activists and political figures – from those on far-right to free speech advocates.

Rice claims that Chudasama’s Twitter and Instagram accounts featured Jihadi propaganda, and that this demonstrates a terrorist motive.

It is not necessarily implausible that someone with an attraction to Jihadi propaganda might also have imbibed alcohol: human psychology is complex, and the romantic appeal of Jihadi “heroism” may be wider than just among committed Islamic fundamentalists. Such an attraction, combined with the inhibition-lowering effects of alcohol, might conceivably inspire a spontaneous act of violence that is afterwards regretted, which in this case would then explain why the perpetrator has not chosen to take the “credit” for a terror attack.

But this is somewhat speculative, and to have brought a murder charge that then failed because it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt would surely have been a worse outcome than Chudasama’s actual conviction on a lesser charge that has led to a substantial prison sentence. The mother of one of the other boys, Tracy Blackwell, appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in April; she argued that the sentences for the three deaths ought to have been consecutive rather than concurrent, but other than saying “I also think our case is different from death by dangerous driving, I just want to say that”, as written up in the Sun she did not go into Rice’s views about a terrorist motive or police cover-up.

The campaign, somewhat like the (now ended) “Justice for Chelsey” campaign, appears to be well-known within what we might call broad “alt-right” / “nationalist” trends, but it has not attracted much interest outside of this milieu; in July, Mail Online noted a man holding up a campaign pamphlet during an incident in which Tommy Robinson supporters abused a woman Muslim bus-driver in Trafalgar Square, but no further details were provided.

Publicity for the campaign appears to have been mainly through public speeches at events such as the “Day for Freedom” protest noted above, along with follow-up on social media. For example, this video shows the activist Eddie Isok (blogged here) speaking at one such event (1).

However, there has also been some controversy; the suspended UKIP activist and leader of MBGA (Make Britain Great Again) Luke Nash-Jones (recently notorious for his “invasion” of the left-wing Bookmarks bookshop in central London) declined to take part if a Justice for Our Boys event on Sunday, alleging the involvement of the far-right. According to the blurb under Nash-Jones’s YouTube video announcement (links added):

As much as Make Britain Great Again have sympathy for the tragedy of the three boys and Tracy Blackwell fighting for justice, the Leader of MBGA, Luke Nash-Jones and Secretary Brian Calder can not attend the Justice for Our Boys march by James Goddard because they have invited Tim Timothy Scott, a member of the Liberty Defenders run by notorious anti-Semite Jack Sen. Timothy Scott and Glen Saffer have made aggressive threats to Luke Nash-Jones. Fighting for Justice can not be achieved by siding with Jack Sen who called himself a National Socialist, i.e. a Nazi. Justice for Our Boys needs to vet the backgrounds of speakers.

Goddard recently appeared in a Fox News report as someone who has “been involved in a number of rallies of support for [Tommy] Robinson”; at one “Free Tommy” rally he expressed the view that the country is run by an elite of “Satanic paedophiles”, to cheers from the crowd. Sen, meanwhile, was dropped by UKIP in 2015 after he claimed that Jews in public life were responsible for a “genocide” in western Europe (according to the Guardian,“Sen made the comments in an interview with the far-right South African website the European Knights Project (EKP) published on 12 April”).

Footnote

1. The podium also featured a banner for another campaign, “Justice for Jack Walker”. This refers to a man who died in prison in Indonesia a year ago after being convicted of drug smuggling in 2012; supporters argue that he was coerced into smuggling, and that he was tortured and murdered in prison.